Henry Choi

Class Year: 

2010
Hometown: Daegu, Korea, Republic of

School: 

Skyline, High School

Language: 

Japanese
I actually met Mr. Huntsman Sr. when I was working as a volunteer for Huntsman Cancer Institute, and before that, I'll be honest, Penn wasn't really my first choice. I asked Mr. Huntsman what motivates him to do business and he said 'Henry, I do business because I want to help people.' I had never actually heard any businessman say that they want to make money because they want to donate it. That night I went home and did my own research on Jon M. Huntsman and I found out that he graduated from Wharton and that he endowed the Huntsman Program. From that day, I told myself: I need to get into this Program.

Why Huntsman?

Henry grew up in South Korea, but transferred to an American high school after his freshman year. While attending high school in Salt Lake City, Utah, Henry volunteered at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. One morning, he had the opportunity to meet Jon M. Huntsman and was so impressed by the encounter that he looked up Mr. Huntsman on the internet to learn more about him. The fact that Mr. Huntsman had used his Wharton education to create something that does so much good for so many people (an Institute that's working towards a cure for cancer) is what inspired Henry himself to pursue a business education through the Huntsman Program.

Student Background

It was Henry's own decision to move to the United States to finish high school, but his parents supported him in that choice. He graduated at the top of his class despite barely knowing the language when he first arrived! Henry was the first minority student ever elected to the student body government in his SLC high school, and he served as an officer two years in a row. After graduating from high school, Henry took a year off to work as a full-time lab technician at the Cancer Institute before entering the Huntsman Program.

Back in Korea, Henry had seen both adults and children suffer with cancer simply because they couldn't afford treatment. Henry envisions a future in which nobody will go without medical treatment for lack of financial means.

According to Henry, he had a good life in Korea. He didn't leave in search of a more comfortable lifestyle, but rather to gain the skills necessary to make a difference and help others, who have not been as lucky as he has. Henry believes that the Huntsman Program has helped him accomplish this. He pursued dual concentrations in Finance and Management from the Wharton School as well as dual majors in International Studies and East Asian Languages & Civilizations from the School of Arts & Sciences. Upon graduation, Henry joined the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. to help shape the federal health care law. Henry returned to Korea in 2011 to start a venture capital firm.

Beyond the Classroom

Henry served on the Huntsman Student Advisory Board, which organizes social events to foster relationships between students in the Program. He also mentored and advised incoming freshman on both academics and adjusting to college life. When he joined Psi Upsilon fraternity at the end of his freshman year, he became the first Korean-American brother since the fraternity's establishment. As Scholarship Chair of his fraternity, Henry mentored pledge classes on fraternity moral standards.

Henry was also the Chair of the Wharton Leadership Lectures Committee. He was the only freshman selected to join a board comprised of 7 Wharton undergraduates and 7 MBA students. The Committee organizes a bimonthly lecture series for senior executives from the public and private sectors to share their insights with Wharton students, and Henry says that it was his most rewarding activity at Penn.

Through the Leadership Lectures Committee, Henry heard leaders of major organizations from the IMF to BMW, from Disney to DeBeers, and he says that these lectures help students to understand what it actually takes to be a leader. While it's easy for some students to focus on the glamorous aspects of being a CEO (expensive suits, large compensation packages, etc.), Henry learned that it's really about responsibility, and being able to take care of the people who work for you and depend on your organization.

"These people are human beings at the end of the day," says Henry, and he has loved the opportunity to sit down and talk to them, person to person. He says that the experience helped mature him, because he has a better understanding of what it takes to rise to the top, and he knows that it takes hard work.